Watch: Martin Scorsese Embodies a Clash Between Neo-Realism and Postmodernism
The Film Theorists have hit on something crucial about Martin Scorsese in their newest video essay, which is that his movies rely on the tension between the everyday, the grit, the grim, the signs of humanity at its worst, and an ongoing desire to transcend that element through cinematic technique. In ‘Goodfellas,’ we see the humble upbringings of the titular thugs contrasted with outsized violence, outsized dreams, outsized immorality. In ‘Raging Bull,’ we see the simplicity and primacy of boxing itself re-cast with outrageous camera angles, distended perspectives, drip-slow motion. And on and on. The makers of the video describe this tension in terms of the director’s lineage, his roots in the neorealism of Rossellini and Fellini, and the explosion that occurred when the director discovered these paradigms could be subverted–but the tension could be more integral than that, perhaps something within Scorsese himself that, like many geniuses before him, is able to maintain two contrasting ideas in mind at the same time.
Watch: Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’: How That Last Scene Works
Martin Scorsese’s classic ‘Goodfellas‘ was made for post-viewing anecdotes. Remember the scene in ‘Goodfellas’ where they’re eating dinner after they wacked that guy? Remember the scene in ‘Goodfellas’ where Joe Pesci thinks he’s going to be made, and then…? Remember the scene in ‘Goodfellas’ where Lorraine Bracco has that spat with Ray Liotta? Hey, you think I’m funny? Do I amuse you? I’m funny, like a clown? Similarly, the last sequence, in which Liotta’s Henry Hill crams as many frustrating tasks as he can into one very long day and then concludes the sequence (along with his time as a goodfella) at the business end of a police officer’s gun, is indelible and can be compared easily to a lot of high-stress situations in daily life. Julian Palmer’s latest video for 1848 Media‘s ‘The Discarded Image’ series takes a very close look at this scene, analyzing its camera angles, its narrative construction, and its links to other films (by Cassavetes and others), the sorts of realistic dramas whose inheritance gives Scorsese, in Palmer’s estimation, his greatest strength.
Watch: Martin Scorsese’s Career Highlights, Shown Through Close-Ups
Though one would not typically associate Martin Scorsese with the close-up shot, given that he is more recognizable as a director who paints with an extremely broad brush about large personalities, large crimes, and large deficits, brought to the screen with majestic, aggressive, quintessentially American camera work, this startling compilation of close-up shots by Jorge Luengo brings another side of the director’s work to light, one which accentuates imperfection, difficulty, the ugliness of conflict, the difficulty of simply existing. To look at this video, you’d think you were ruminating on a different director, and not the man who simultaneously brought us ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Hugo,’ ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘The Aviator,’ ‘Cape Fear’ and "Goodfellas.’ Take a peek at it, and see if your thoughts on Scorsese aren’t changed.